Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Few Funny Moments to Share

While working in our booth at the Alaska State Fair, we see so many people every day.  This is a big event here and people come from all over the state to attend.  We also get a fair amount of tourists from the lower 48 and other parts of the world who just happened to be on vacation here while the fair is going on.

Today I'll share some funny moments from our days so far.

Hat Funny

A young woman was trying on several fleece hats made by Heather of Mountain Heather.  She had a heavy Korean accent, but is a local Anchorage-ite now.  They all looked great on her.  She said, "I bought one of these hats last year and love the way it looks on me.  My husband said something different".  We all chuckled and then she said, "Now I feel compelled to buy another one".  She followed that with lots of very evil sounding laughter.  We love this young woman named Pansy (isn't that a great name?).

Two Sisters Funny
These two sisters (I would guess they were in their 40's) of quite ample proportions were looking at our shirts, which we carry in sizes small through 3XL.  One sister asks the other, " Should I get this shirt in a 2XL or a 3XL"?  The other one cackles and then shouts, "Girl, look behind you!", referring to her sister's generously sized posterior.  Needless to say she bought the 3XL.

These are the moments that keep us going from year to year.  Our customers are incredibly fun.  From the father buying his teen-aged daughter a black Bad Girls hoodie to the grandmother trying to figure out which size onesie would fit her new granddaughter to a young woman choosing the right color shirt for her best friend who just moved to the lower 48.  We see them all and we love most all of them.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Quick Tour of our Fair Booth

Here's a brief look at some more of the artists' work represented in our booth at the Alaska State Fair.

Carol's handmade soap and body care products and a selection of Lucinda's birch bark baskets:

Handmade mittens by Nancy Nolfi.  She uses recycled sweaters and vintage buttons.  The mittens are lined with fleece and many have hand embroidery.

Metal art by Cindy Shake -- it's hard to see this outdoor display because the background is the hot tub booth next door!  Be sure to check out Cindy's blog.

Some more of Cindy's metal -- these perching ravens are quite popular.

Part of my jewelry display.  My earrings are on the opposite wall and I didn't get a photo of them yet.

Time to head up to the fair for the day -- it's about a 20 mile drive for me.  See you later!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Day of the Alaska State Fair!

Yes, the fair opens today at noon.  How do I have time to write a blog post, you ask?  How come I'm not in a panic, running in circles?  Well, I woke up early and realized that the booth is just about complete and ready for tons of customers.  I think we will have a  great opening day because our fabulous weather streak looks like it will continue for at least 2 more days!

Here are some photos I took yesterday as the booth neared completion.

Our brand new set of drinking items: ceramic mugs, travel cups and water bottles (yes, they're BPA free).  Selecting the colors for these items was another one of those extra fun tasks.

On the far right of the above photo, you can see a small selection of birch bark baskets.  We've had birch bark baskets in our booth since the beginning of time.  They are made by Ardella Hagen and her daughter Lucinda Durham.  This year, we have baskets made by Lucinda.  Ardella, one of my most favorite people in the whole world, passed away a few weeks ago.  I have given many of Ardella's baskets away as gifts and have quite a collection myself.  I miss her already.

New to the booth this year are some amazing handmade pillowcases by our friend Margaret.  She does a great job of matching fabrics into these rich combinations.  At the very top is one of her quilts.

And a collection of Heather's hats comes next.  We have a slightly smaller selection than usual, but we expect another shipment (she lives in Fairbanks) in a few days.

More picture to come -- of Cindy's metal art, my jewelry and Carol's soap!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New T-Shirt Colors

Each year, we select new colors for our Bad Girls of the North logo t-shirts.  Carol & I are both color freaks, so this is always a fun task.  As I've told you, all of our printing is done by Alaska Serigraphics, and we select our t-shirts from Comfort Colors by Chouinard.  Their selection is vast and the quality of their shirts is superb.  They are pre-shrunk and really hold their color.  Check out the website if you ever need to print some shirts!

These are our new colors in long sleeves:  mango, lagoon blue and violet.  The other colors you see in this photo are left overs from previous years.

Our new short sleeve colors are aloe, crimson and china blue: (bad photo alert)

Of course, I once again forgot to take a photo earlier in the day.  I took these 2 right before leaving for the day at around 6pm.  We have plenty more shirts in backstock.  They live in the trailer that sites behind our little building.  Hopefully we will need every last one!

Coming soon:  shy do we sell all of this logo merchandise anyway?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Carol & The Broom

Caol always tells me she isn't cut out for cleaning, much the same way that I claim I'm not cut out for physical labor, but this is a bit much.  See what happened when she tried to do a bit of sweeping on the new ramp?  In the shadows, you can see the rest of the broom.

Douglas, Carol's husband, calls this photo "Aborted Take-Off".  No comment.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

it's that time of year again

Yes, my friends, it's time for the Alaska State Fair.  For those of you have been reading my blog for a few years know that I have had a booth at the Fair since 1998.  The booth is for my 'other' business, Bad Girls of the North.  We produce craft shows in the fall.  At the fair, we sell our logo merchandise and lots of handmade crafts.

Yesterday was our first day of set-up and as luck would have it, the weather was fabulous!  Hot and sunny.  All day long.  Rick worked on extending our entrance ramp to comply with ADA regulations and Carol & I cleaned and readied the booth.

I remembered to take a picture at the end of the day.

Here's a sneak peek at our latest clothing item.  It's a pigment dyed zippered hoodie with some awesome birch tree artwork.  The models are employees at Alaska Serigraphics, the amazing local company that does all of our printing and embroidery.

You may not see me around as much over the next 2 weeks, as the fair will keep me busy from morning to nighttime.  The fair opens on August 26 and closes on Labor Day, September 6.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fudge Topped Brownies

Let me start by saying this is NOT my go-to brownie recipe as the frosting is really, really rich.  Rather, this recipe is for when you want brownies and fudge all in the same bite!

Fudge Topped Brownies

1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1  1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts

Combine butter, sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, eggs, milk and vanilla.  Mix until smooth.  Stir in walnuts.  Pour/spread in greased 13" x 9" pan.  Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.

Fudge Topping
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

In heavy saucepan over very low heat, melt chips with sweetened condensed milk.  When melted, stir in vanilla.  Spread over hot brownies.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Variations on a Theme

You've seen this style of earrings before.  If it's still selling for me, I'll continue to make it.  And it has been selling well, mostly in local stores.  While the possible combinations of tiny rondelles seems endless, I have a tendency to stick with proven winners: garnet & labradorite, peridot & amethyst.

This pair is quite different.  I used rhodolite garnets, mandarin garnets and citrine for a fruit punch sort of look.  The pink, orange and yellow combo has a nice appeal for me these days -- it's very refreshing!

 Click on the photo to go directly to the listing in my etsy shop!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fun in the Studio

I had a very successful wholesale meeting with Cabin Fever (again) on Friday and spent most of the weekend making earrings to fill up those 2 boxes again.  While I allow some new earring ideas brew in my head, I decided to do some copper etching and patterning on sterling silver.

These copper shapes were purchased like this.  What a great time saver!  I think the top ones will make some interesting earrings.  The bottom 2 will be elements for me to use in my mixed media necklaces.

These sterling discs are 24ga and so easy to pattern using my rolling mill.  For these pieces, I used skeleton leaves.  Other things that make great patterns are light gauge craft wire, textured paper, paper with cut-outs, designs embossed on paper with traditional embossing powder, thin gauge soft metals, mesh, sandpaper.  I could go on and on.

These are just a small sampling of the pieces I worked on yesterday.  I figure, as long as I've got the chemicals out, why not etch a whole big batch of stuff.  The same with the patterning.  While I'm at it, why not pattern a bunch of metal?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Fabulous and Intense Read

I recently finished reading Little Bee by Chris Cleave.

It was a very serious read, which almost always appeals to me.  Sue, I like a good adventure novel or spy thriller, but my favorite books deal with The Human Condition (think Joyce Carol Oates).  This book does not disappoint in this department!  Chris Cleave's writing style is compelling and I zipped right through this book.

There's something so incredibly satisfying in reading a book whose story really sticks with you.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I've been doing this a long time

I started my jewelry business in 1997, shortly after moving up to Alaska.  At that time, the internet was still very young and I didn't even own a computer.  Sure, there were lots of books on running your own small business (I did not read any of them) and seminars at the Small Business Administration (I did not go to any of these).  What I did was run my business based on gut feelings. I had no real plan.

I would never be so bold as to tell you how to run your small business, but what I will do is tell you what has worked for me.

*  From the very beginning, I told myself that I wanted my business to grow very slowly, just up until the point where I would need to hire help.  One of the primary benefit of running my own business is being able to make my own hours and be very self sufficient.  If I needed to hire someone, I might find myself adapting to their schedule.  This would not make me happy.

*  I signed up for every craft show I could that first year I was in business.  How else would I know which ones would work for me?  That year, I did 13 shows from September through December.  Yes, it was exhausting, but lots of fun too.  I quickly learned which shows I would not do again and which ones to sign up for year after year.  As you might guess, I made some mistakes.  This list of shows has changed many times over the years.  I am now down to 3, two of which are shows I produce with my Bad Girls of the North business partner Carol.  (I'll do a post on the evolution of that business at a later date) .

*  I've always been good at math and I like to play with numbers and statistics.  I keep extremely detailed records of my sales and expenses.  I do year to year comparisons to help me figure out what has been working and what has not.

These 3 points are a good start.  I don't want to put you to sleep with a super long post.  If you have any specific things you would like me to share about my 14 years of making a living with my little jewelry business, let me know in the comment section.  And thanks for listening.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rutilated Quartz ... to die for

The strand of briolettes that these 2 came from was amazing ... and these are the only 2 that made a pair.  I find that incredibly frustrating.  I guess many necklaces will follow.

These brios are quite large and I didn't want to cover much of their beauty, so I used the "large-hole-silver-bead" method of finishing them for earrings.  This method secures the bead and hides the wire wrapping above the bead without obscuring any of its beauty.  Plus it makes a nice little nest for the pearl to rest in.

These earrings are for sale in my etsy shop.  Click on the photo to go directly to the listing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A New Scarf Takes Shape

Surprise -- I found 2 skeins of yarn that I forgot I had.  This is almost as unlikely as discovering I have too many beads.  hehe.  This yarn is 100% superfine alpaca.  I really don't know what classifies it as superfine, but I DO know that it is amazingly soft.

I selected this basket weave pattern, which looks a lot more complicated than it really is.

The yarn is a yummy forest green with a touch of olive.  Here's a close-up of the fun pattern.  I hope I have enough yarn to make a scarf of decent length.  I'm not really good as estimating that.  Yet.

I guess, whenever it was that I purchased this yarn, I also purchased 2 skeins in a different color.  Those skeins are a variegated blue/purple/burgundy that is just wonderful.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Abandoned Product Lines

I've had some product lines over the years that I have since discontinued.  This post will focus on how I decided when it was time to stop making and selling a particular product.  Or, how it was decided for me.

I had this brilliant idea.  It was 1997 and I had just moved up to Alaska and started my jewelry business.  I had met my friend Carol within weeks of arriving here  (such a truly fortunate meeting!) and we decided to share a booth at a few Saturday Markets in downtown Anchorage throughout that summer.  Oh yeah, back to my brilliant idea.

At the local bead store, I spied some large kilt pins with loops for dangling charms and such.  Then I saw the Alaska themed charms and decided to hang a moose, fish and bear charm from 3 of the loops and some additional beads from the other 2 loops.  I know, doesn't sound all that brilliant, but trust me, this was just the beginning.

The Saturday Market was always full of tourists looking for small gifts to bring home.  I sold these pins like they were some sort of rare treasure at a bargain price.  It helped that I was displaying them on decorative cards that I printed myself.  And people loved the fact that no two pins were exactly alike.  I had about 20 different color schemes for these pins.  One of my best sellers was called Sitka Spruce (Alaska's state tree).  I printed a small picture of a spruce tree on the display card and the beads were all different shades of green.  Another popular one was called Birch Forest and this was the bead I used in the center dangle:

Among the options for the shoppers was Mixed Berries (shades of red), Fireweed (bright pink/purple), Denali Twilight (dark purple), Silver Salmon (grays)and Big Dipper (royal blue and gold).  I think you get the idea.  Each cute pin on it's own cute representative card.  It made quite a compelling display.

When I found the wholesale source for the pins and the charms, I stopped purchasing them from the bead store (sorry Mark) and started wholesaling the pins to gift shops all over the state.  The pins retailed for $18 and with the new lower prices on my components, I was able to wholesale them for $9, a true keystone price.

This craziness continued on for years.  Through 2006 to be precise.  True, the display for these pins was getting smaller and smaller at my craft shows, but my wholesaling was still strong.  Starting in 2004, I battled quality problems with those silly kilt pins and then by the end of 2005 the sources dried up completely.  I bought the last batch from each of my 2 suppliers.  Then Tierra Cast decided to discontinue the moose, fish and bear charms!  How dare they!  This was part of my livelihood after all.  But I think the universe was trying to tell me something.

Deep inside, I was actually quite relieved.  I had considered discontinuing these pins for 2 years prior to this, but just couldn't do it while they were still selling.  So, the decision was made for me.  When I opened my destash shop on etsy at the end of 2007, I started to unload the remainder of my moose and bear charms.  I had no fish left.

I'm proud to have had such a successful product line, but I'm glad that it's in my past.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Some New Ideas Are Brewing

Mostly just for fun, I purchased some of these:

and some of these:

Yup, I'm going to make some rings for my friends and nieces.  The format is very small, so I need to really think about the artwork that I will use under the glass cabochons.  I might try some of the marbled papers I made 2 years ago at Volcano Arts.  Some of the papers have very fine detail that will be visible under the 12mm glass.  The real question is, why am I still hoarding this paper??

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Vintage Glass Beads

I've been hoarding these particular beads for too long now.  I'm beginning to set them free with this pair of earrings.  The color of the beads is almost indescribable -- it's a mix of golden yellow, brown and green.  I topped them with brass beadcaps to enhance the vintage feel of the beads.

What are my favorite sources of vintage glass beads, you ask?  The Beadin' Path always has a great selection, as does The Whole Bead Shop (these are actually reproductions now, but still very vintage in styling).  Don't rule out thrift stores and antique shops.  Many of my vintage beads were originally part of supremely ugly vintage necklaces.  I deconstruct them to recover the beads and give them new, and happier lives.  You may pay more this way, but I think the uniqeness of the beads is often worth it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Stack O'Scarves

I've been knitting a lot lately.  It really helped me get through Xena's final days by giving me something to focus on in the evenings.  Here's a stack of scarves that I've recently completed.

The top one and the third one down are alpaca.  The oatmeal colored one in between is handspun wool.  I love the nubby, yet still soft texture of this one.  I knitted the bottom one by holding together two different yarns: orange & gray mohair and bright orange nylon.  The mohair really tamed the brightness of the nylon.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cardmaking :: Antique Wallpaper

I continued to play with card making in my studio yesterday.  This time my focus was the Antique Wallpaper technique from the Technique Junkies newsletter.  This is a fun technique and it lets me use my Cuttlebug and Ranger Distress Inks.  Swoon ...

Fun, huh?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Glowing Oil Pastels

That's the name of the technique I used to make these 4 notecards.  The technique is from the Technique Junkies newsletter that I've subscribed to for many years.  I always find inspiration in the newsletters and the artwork that is all over the website.  If you are at all interested in rubber stamping, I highly recommend visiting the site.

The Glowing Oil Pastel technique calls for, you guessed it, oil pastels.  While I have a few of those, I also have some Shiva paint sticks.  These are oil based and work just as well, while expanding my color options for this technique.  After the oil pastels are applied and blended, the entire piece of cardstock is covered with clear embossing.  This does not show up well in these scans, but the surface of the card has a glass like finish.

As is my style, my layouts are simple, making for very versatile blank cards, suitable for a variety of occasions.  And as usual, my scans are slightly crooked.  ;\

Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer Sale!

I am having a big sale in my etsy shop.  What's the catch, you ask?  Well, it's only open to newsletter subscribers.  So, if you're interested in this special sale, fill out the newsletter subscribe form on the right and I'll send you a newsletter asap! 

Don't worry -- I won't spam you with tons of emails.  I only send newsletters at the most, once a month.  Sometimes, not even that often.  But this sale is one you won't want to miss.  I don't anticipate having another one for several months.

I'll close with this photo of a freeform pin from my etsy shop: